The relationship between constipation and the prostate is kind of like the old chicken and egg conundrum. The egg: Constipation, aka the build-up of feces in the intestine (also called the bowel), can put pressure on the bladder and the prostate, which can cause symptoms resembling those associated with an enlarged prostate.
The chicken: an enlarged prostate can put pressure on the rectum and cause constipation. But wait, there’s more…
Let’s talk constipation
Everyone has a pretty good idea what it’s about, but maybe not all the details. Constipation occurs when feces build up and block the bowel. They become hard and difficult to excrete. Bowel movements become too infrequent (fewer than three times a week)*. Water in the feces gets absorbed by the bowel. If the feces stay in the bowel too long, the water is completely absorbed and the feces become dry and hard.
Other than the discomfort and time lost trying to have a bowel movement, what’s the problem? The answer is in the contents. Feces are the body’s toxic waste, destined to be expelled quickly because they contain toxins and bacteria. Given that, they shouldn’t be stored in the bowel because the longer they stay there, the more they decompose and putrify, and the bacteria in the bowel multiply and create even more toxins. Let’s move on…
So where does the prostate fit in?
The bowel is located right next to the prostate. If an overabundance of toxins seep into the nearby tissues, the toxins will directly impact the prostate. If they get into the prostate, they can cause inflammation and pain.
When the bowel is full, it can exert pressure on the prostate and the bladder. The straining required to defecate affects the pelvic muscles, which are important in bowel movements and bladder control. This can prevent the bowel and bladder from filling properly and cause them to contract when they shouldn’t. A large quantity of feces in the bowel can also prevent the bladder from voiding completely. Add this to the urinary symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate, and you might end up practically living in the bathroom.
Constipation, combined with an enlarged prostate, often gives rise to elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA).1 Produced by the prostate, PSA is a protein found in sperm and, in lesser quantities, in blood. Abnormally high levels of blood PSA can indicate the presence of prostate cancer or some other prostate condition. The PSA test used to detect prostate cancer can be affected by constipation, which is something you clearly don’t need. However, once the constipation is relieved, PSA levels returns to normal.
On the flip side of the coin, an enlarged prostate, cancerous or not, is a common cause of constipation. An enlarged prostate can put pressure on the rectum and make defecating difficult. In cases of chronic constipation not resolved despite a high-fibre diet and regular exercise, a prostate exam is recommended.
Aim for regularity, for the prostate’s sake
The first step to relieving constipation is to improve your diet. Ideally, avoid processed foods high in sugar, salt, saturated or trans fats, and basically any foods that are difficult to digest or eliminate.
Drink a lot of water and avoid coffee and soft drinks.
Adopt a fibre-rich diet:
- Green vegetables (easier to digest when cooked), especially broccoli, kale, spinach and leek
- Dried fruits, including prunes, raisins, figs, mangoes and dates
- Prune juice
- Whole grains: in bread, breakfast cereals and pasta. Plain oatmeal is an excellent choice for breakfast. Wheat, which is ubiquitous, can be replaced by quinoa or millet to good effect.
- Choose whole-grain rice (aka brown rice) instead of white rice.
- Flax seed doesn’t look like much, but when taken with water, its mucilage content helps clear the intestines. It also comes in the form of a laxative supplement.
- Beets ahoy! Delicious, rich in fibre and vitamins, beets help relieve constipation.
Be good to your intestinal flora. Because it plays a vital role in the digestive process, it is important to foster the growth of the good intestinal bacteria that make up the flora to prevent and relieve constipation. Prebiotic foods like onions, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, chicory, garlic and bananas nourish these good bacteria. There’s nothing too exotic about it. Using Molkosan whey extract is another way to create an environment whose pH fosters the growth of good bacteria. That’s how Molkosan promotes regularity.
Walk away from your sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise, even a single brisk walk a day, promotes peristalsis, the waves of movements that push food through the digestive tract.
Keep stress at bay. When you’re too stressed, you don’t always take the time to sit down, relax and have a good meal, and when you do, you don’t necessarily chew your food well. This can affect digestion and cause constipation.
When we can’t find ways to reduce stress and we have digestion problems, certain bitter plants like those found in Boldocynara can help. Boldocynara stimulates bile production and eases digestion. Bile emulsifies the stool, making it easier to defecate.
In the end, the whole chicken and egg debate is moot: simply put, constipation is no friend of the prostate.
* While people typically have bowel movements anywhere from one to three times a day, three to four times a week can be enough.